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Young Goodman Brown Analysis Outline English Literature Essay

Zheqing Jiang

Professor Knight

English 1102, Composition II (TTH, 11:30 a.m.)

"Young Goodman Brown" Analysis: Outline

Thesis: This dark Romantics story develops through the clue of Goodman Brown’s gradual giving in to evil from the corruption of his wife and the encounter of the devil, all major characters’ are also set as a symbols to reveal the conflict of good and evil in all people, though in the author’s view, evil usually takes over.

Plan of development: The story unfolds itself by portraying three distinct major characters and the conflicts they are going through, which eventually leads to the climax where the story’s theme is revealed.

Body Paragraph I:

Topic Sentence: The major characters are the carrier of the storyline, and their change and conflicts are significant factors contributing to the story’s development.

Goodman Brown shows both innocence and corruptibility.

Faith’s turning to corruption made Goodman believe in the absolute evil at the heart of man.

The devil appears to be an ordinary man, suggesting that every person has the capacity for evil.

Body Paragraph II:

Topic Sentence: As the story progresses, all major characters have revealed the conflicts they have within themselves and with one another, finding ways to resolve these conflicts brought the story to a climax.

A major conflict that goes throughout the story is the fight between good an evil.

B. Faith, the should-be innocent character had give in to the corruption of the devil.

C. In face of the devil, Goodman could hold no resistance although he thought he could in the beginning.

Body Paragraph III:

Topic Sentence: The portray of characters and their conflict eventually uncovered the theme of the story.

Fall of mankind

Hypocrisy of public morality

C. Inherent vice of man defeats the goodness within people

Zheqing Jiang

Professor Knight

English 1102, Composition II (TTH, 11:30 a.m.)

3 Apr. 2013

"Young Goodman Brown" Analysis

The early American Romantic writer Nathaniel Hawthorne is considered a very influential one for he elevated American short story from a leisure time killer into a major literary form together with the effort of Edgar Allan Poe. Hawthorne’s work generally bears distinct traces of his New England Puritan heritage, which exerted his muse on the guilt and sin of mankind, especially in the work "Young Goodman Brown". This dark Romantics story develops through the clue of Goodman Brown’s gradual giving in to evil from the corruption of his wife and the encounter of the devil, all major characters’ are also set as a symbols to reveal the conflict of good and evil in all people, though in the author’s view, evil usually takes over. The story unfolds itself by portraying three distinct major characters and the conflicts they are going through, which eventually leads to the climax where the story’s theme is revealed.

The major characters are the carrier of the storyline, and their change and conflicts are significant factors contributing to the story’s development. Goodman Brown demonstrated both innocence and corruptibility in the story. He’s a man that believed in the goodness in those around him all his life until this one night, whether the encounter of the old man is real or a dream, he suddenly turned to distrust all those around him, including his wife Faith. "A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man, did he become, from the night of that fearful dream" (Hawthorne 315). Critics also pointed out that Goodman Brown’s struggle between faith and evil "reveals his lack of true religion—his belief is easy to shake—as well as of the good and evil sides of human nature" (SparkNotes). Goodman Brown’s wife, Faith, whose innocence is emphasized with the symbolic description of her pink ribbon, works as a major guide in Goodman Brown’s turning back on goodness. ""Faith! Faith!’ cried the husband. ‘Look up to Heaven, and resist the wicked one’" (Hawthorne 314). Out of all the disappointment Goodman Brown perceived from the corruption of those around him, he still remains one last slight of hope in his wife, who he believed to be the most innocent of them all, which is why Faith’s turning to corruption completely destroy’s Goodman last believe in the true faith and turned to believe in the inherent vice of man. It’s suggested by Hawthorne, that "if Goodman Brown is able to be suspicious of Faith, then he has truly become estranged from the goodness of God" (SparkNotes). Another important character that impacted the protagonist greatly is undoubtedly the old man who later appeared to be the devil himself. He declares to his followers: "Depending upon one another’s hearts, ye had still hoped, that virtue were not all a dream. Now are ye undeceived! Evil is the nature of mankind" (Hawthorne 314). Had all this nightmare be a dream, the evil has already won since all those darkness came from the bottom of Goodman’s heart and had already swallowed him. As the critics indicated, "the devil is lurking around every turn of the story, and even when Goodman awakes the next morning and wonders if it was all a dream, the devil has won" (Vaillancourt). In a word, Faith and the devil’s action and words significantly impacted Goodman Brown’s soul, and gradually brought the protagonist to face the major conflicts within himself.

As the story progresses, all major characters have revealed the conflicts they have within themselves and with one another, finding ways to resolve these conflicts brought the story to a climax. One major conflict that goes throughout the story is the fight between good an evil. Although Goodman Brown appeared to be resisting the devil from the beginning point, one fact that could not be ignored is that he chose to meet with the devil in the first place. When Goodman addresses the reason for his lateness, "Faith kept me back awhile" (Hawthorne 306), it indicates that he and the devil had made an appointment to meet and this line also showed Goodman Brown already departed from his own religious faith. Similar to what critics suggested: "This comment can be taken to mean that not only was he being held back by his wife, but that he was already having an inner struggle with his beliefs" (Vaillancourt). The same conflict happens to the protagonist’s wife, Faith, the should-be innocent character who turned out to be corrupted by the devil as well. When Faith passed through the forest, "Something fluttered lightly down through the air, and caught on the branch of a tree. The young man seized it, and beheld a pink ribbon" (Hawthorne 311). Here Faith had lost or thrown away her pink ribbon which symbolizes purity and innocence, Goodman Brown was strucken by the fact that his wife has taken on the evil’s side. Critics suggested that this conflict "represents the inner struggle of the human soul to maintain a relationship with one's religious beliefs in the face of evil" (Vaillancourt). In face of the devil, Goodman could hold no resistance although he thought he could in the beginning. Some critics believed that "In the end, Brown resolves his conflict by deciding not to take part in the ritual, an act symbolic of Brown’s resistance to temptation and the revelation of his existent goodness" (Conflict). This is true to some part, but the way he resists to the evil had already shown he’s twisted and untrustful to the world around him, which reflects his desperation and hopelessness in his heart, which in turn shows that evil had already won him over, although he did not notice.

The portray of characters and their conflict eventually uncovered the theme of the story. One obvious theme of the story is the religious indication to the fall of mankind. This is not only shown by the corruption of almost everyone around Goodman Brown, but also revealed through the change of the protagonist, as he turned into "a stern, sad, darkly meditative, distrustful, desperate man" (Hawthorne 315). He gave up believing in the slightest hope and goodness in man and in faith, although this may appear to be a form of resisting the evil, he’s been defeated completely by the devil in true essence, as critics pointed out: "Goodman Brown now looks for the devil behind every bush and in the hearts of all those around him, never recognizing that his own soul is now hopelessly corrupt and blind to the light and goodness of God" (Maher). The respected public figures as well as Goodman Brown’s respected elder family member’s turning to the devil had revealed the theme of public morality’s hypocrisy. When Goodman Brown saw Goody Cloyse’s presence at the devil’s meeting, he cried "That old woman taught me my catechism" (Hawthorne 309). Behind this simple comment there’s a huge swirl in Goodman’s heart full of deceiving and disappointment, and this impact comes at him several times as he discovered almost all the people he believed to be good belong to the evil, even his beloved innocent wife Faith. Critics suggested that "the danger of basing a society on moral principles and religious faith lies in the fact that members of the society do not arrive at their own moral decisions" (SparkNotes). Futhermore, Goodman Brown’s resistant to the devil never really pushed him away from the dark side, instead, his curiosity, or maybe the darkness within himself, keeps pushing him to follow the devil’s lure. At the beginning of the story, the line "He arose, at Goodman Brown’s approach, and walked onward, side by side with him" (Hawthorne 305) had foreshadowed Goodman Brown being accompanied by the wickedness of mankind. "The very fact that Goodman Brown is willing to visit the forest when he has an idea of what will happen, there is an indication of the corruptibility and evil at the heart of even the most faithful Puritan"(SparkNotes). This revealed another major theme of the story: the inherent vice of man defeating the goodness within people.

Overall, this masterpiece of Hawthorne’s has applied the portrayal of characters and development of conflicts sophisticatedly, and brought the reader to came up with the author’s main idea and themes along the reading experience. Hawthorne makes the reader to ponder upon the true essence of human nature, yet at the same time warned us not to block out believing in goodness and light while resisting the dark side of mankind.

Zheqing Jiang

Professor Knight

English 1102, Composition II (TTH, 11:30 a.m.)

3 Apr. 2013

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